Regardless of what you’ve been told, Iceland is still an amazing travel destination. Of course you’ll encounter hoards of other tourists, but if you plan your trip correctly, you’ll be able to avoid the majority of other travelers.
Luckily, most travelers avoid leaving the pavement and main tourist destinations. So, use this guide to find the best day hikes in Iceland and enjoy the solitude that this island has to offer.
Day Hikes In Southern Iceland
Although a lot of tourists gravitate to the southern half of Iceland, don’t let them deter you from visiting. Southern Iceland is easily accessible by car or bus from Reykjavik and the national parks, hiking trails, and landforms are other-worldly.
Take a peek at these epic southern Icelandic day hikes; I’m sure you’ll find something that intrigues you on this list.
Distance: 3.1 miles
Elevation gain: 650 feet
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Location: Laugavegur Trailhead
One of the most popular trails in Iceland is the Laugavegur trail in Landmannalaugar. This impressive hike takes several days to accomplish, but I’ve heard it’s worth every second.
The only downfall is that most of us don’t have several days to spend hiking across Iceland (I wish, right?!). Luckily, you don’t have to miss out on the majestic colored mountains and lava fields; hike the Laugavegur Short Loop Trail instead.
This day hike is well-maintained and can be completed by most people. If you’re in good shape and have a bit of hiking experience, I recommend adding this trail to your hiking itinerary.
Just 3 hours outside of Reykjavik, you’ll find the Laugavegur Short Loop Trail in Fjallabak Nature Reserve. Be sure to pack bug spray and plenty of warm clothes since Icelandic weather can be unpredictable.
Pro-tip: once you reach the end of the trail, continue hiking further on for a few more minutes. This is where you’ll find the most spectacular views.
Distance: 1.2 miles
Elevation gain: N/A
Location: Stakkholts Canyon Trailhead
An increasingly popular attraction in Iceland is an area called Thorsmork, located on the southern coast. Here, you’ll find some of the most exotic landforms, canyons, and waterfalls on the entire island.
If you’re looking to explore Thorsmork, consider adding Stakkholts Canyon to your list. This is one of the best day hikes in Iceland because it allows you to explore so much of an area in such a short distance.
This trail will lead you through the canyon; be sure to wear waterproof shoes as you will be crossing several rivers to reach the end. At the end of the trail, search for the nearby slot canyon, which will lead you to an incredible waterfall. Exploring Stakkholts Canyon was one of our favorite memories in Iceland.
Pro-tip: do NOT attempt to reach Thorsmork without a 4×4 vehicle with very high clearance. You will be crossing rivers with your vehicle. If you don’t have experience with river crossings, be smart and turn around. When in doubt, take the bus out to the nature reserve.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Location: Rettarfell Trailhead
Here’s another hike that gives you epic views of Thorsmork. This easy 2.5-mile hike begins at the Basar hut and campsite. Since it’s a loop trail, you’ll notice hikers walking both ways: clockwise and counterclockwise. Whichever way you choose, you’re sure to be blown away by the exotic scenery of Thorsmork.
Pro-tip: The ranger at the hut had so much valuable information for us. I suggest talking to him about which way you should go based on the weather.
Distance: 3.3 miles
Elevation gain: approximately 900 feet
Location: Mulagljufur Trailhead
By far our favorite adventure in Iceland and one of the best day hikes on the island is Mulagljufur Canyon. Our hike out to Mulagljufur Canyon was unbelievable and isolated. We were the only hikers on the trail, meaning we had the entire canyon to ourselves.
Spend time gawking at the majestic waterfall that flows into the canyon or admire the glacier in the distance. This is a great place to get away from the busy tourist traps and experience what Iceland was like before the surge in tourism.
Before you set out to explore Mulagljufur Canyon, realize that the trail can be difficult to follow at times. Follow the most defined trail in the direction of the canyon and you shouldn’t get lost.
Another thing to note is that there is a causeway that hikers must cross. This causeway is approximately two feet wide with 1500 meter dropoffs on either side (see picture above). If you’re not keen on heights, I don’t suggest attempting this trail.
Falljökull Glacier Trail
Distance: 3.8 miles
Elevation gain: approximately 850 feet
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Location: Falljokull Glacier Trailhead
Is anyone interested in hiking on a glacier? In Iceland? Count me in every time! Falljokull Glacier Trail is one of the best day hikes in Iceland if you want a truly unique experience.
You’ll notice that very few hikers venture out on this trail. As it could be dangerous, I highly recommend hiring a guide to bring you onto the glacier. Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed in this unique and beautiful hike.
Day Hikes In Southern Iceland Map
Southern Iceland is widespread; travelers could spend days upon days exploring the southern coast. Here, you’ll find national parks, black beaches, and incredible glaciers. Use the map below to locate the best day hikes in southern Iceland.
Day Hikes In Western Iceland
The western coast of Iceland is by far my favorite part of the country. There seems to be fewer people on the west coast (apart from Reykjavik) and the hidden gems are endless. Spend time discovering the incredible day hikes in western Iceland by using my suggestions below.
Planning a full itinerary for the west coast of Iceland? Check out my recent guide: The Best Iceland West Coast Itinerary.
Distance: 4.9 miles
Elevation gain: approximately 1300 feet
Location: Glymur Waterfall Trailhead
A day hike on the Glymur Waterfall trail is one of the best things to do while spending time in Reykjavik. Just a 45-minute drive from downtown, you’ll find the second tallest waterfall in Iceland. The expansive canyon is a cherry on top of an already amazing location.
I’ve completed the Glymur Waterfall trail on two separate occasions at different times of the year. Regardless of when you visit Glymur, you’ll likely experience very high winds. Come prepared with a windbreaker and hat.
During my second time hiking this trail, the water in the canyon was significantly higher, which made it impossible for us to cross over to the far side of the canyon. This put a damper on completing the entire loop, but we were still able to hike to the top of the canyon on the side nearest to the carpark. Keep this in mind if you encounter similar conditions.
To find out more about the Glymur Waterfall trail, check out our blog post: The Best Day Trip Out of Reykjavik, Iceland.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs Trail
Distance: 4.4 miles
Elevation gain: approximately 1000 feet
Location: Reykjadalur Hot Springs Trailhead
An increasingly popular day hike in Iceland is to the Reykjadalur Hot Springs. This thermal river is one of the most unique experiences on the island and one of the best day hikes in western Iceland.
Just a 45-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik, this is an excellent day trip for everyone. The hike up to the thermal river takes approximately an hour. This hike is full of amazing views of cascading waterfalls and bubbling hot springs. Be sure to bring your swimsuit and towel for the relaxing hot springs at the end.
Pro-tip: I wouldn’t recommend this hike in cold or rainy weather. Although this was an amazing experience for us, the river was not very warm. I believe the springs would’ve been more tolerable if it wasn’t pouring rain and freezing cold.
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation gain: 1400 feet
Location: Kirkjufell Trailhead
One of the most iconic waterfalls in all of Iceland is Kirkjufell, located in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The powerful waterfall with Kirkjufell mountain in the background is the epitome of Iceland.
In order to avoid the crowds at this popular destination, I recommend hiking to the top of Kirkjufell mountain. Take caution before starting this hike. There are several areas with exposed cliffs; a fall here could be deadly.
I wouldn’t attempt this hike on a windy or rainy day, but if you’re lucky to have a clear day, this is the best hike on the Peninsula.
Distance: 9 miles
Elevation gain: N/A
Location: Budir-Midhus Trailhead
A popular west coast destination is Snæfellsnes National Park and this is the perfect place to explore the spectacular coastline. The west coast of Iceland has some of the most incredible geological formations. To see for yourself, highly recommend adding the Búðir-Miðhús trail to your itinerary.
Before setting out on this hike, keep in mind that the trail is very rocky. Scrambling over rocky terrain will encompass the majority of your hike, but the views of the coastal geological formations are more than worth it.
Day Hikes In Western Iceland Map
Unlike the southern coast, the best day hikes on the western coast of Iceland can be found within a few hours of Reykjavik. The map below illustrates where you can find these epic hikes.
Day Hikes In Eastern Iceland
Eastern Iceland is one of the least visited areas on the island. So many travelers drive through eastern Iceland without stopping, which is quite a shame. There are so many incredible adventures on the eastern coast. I highly recommend spending a few days exploring the fjords, waterfalls, and lakes of this beautiful region.
Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1200 feet
Location: Mount Bjolfur Trailhead
Our favorite hike in eastern Iceland was Mount Bjolfur. This is one of the best day hikes in Iceland to add to your schedule. Atop Mount Bjolfur, you’ll experience a panorama of the fjords below, you’ll be greeted by curious sheep, and you’ll feel like the only humans for miles and miles.
If you have the choice, I recommend completing this hike on a clear day. As shown in the picture above, the clouds obstruct the view of the fjord below. We were lucky to get glimpses of the landscape but didn’t get a full visual.
Pro-tip: if you didn’t rent a vehicle with high clearance, I don’t suggest driving up to the trailhead of this hike. The potholes and rocky terrain make it difficult to traverse.
Distance: 8.3 miles
Elevation gain: 2000 feet
Location: Vestadlsvatn Trailhead
Many tourists overlook the beauty of the eastern coast of Iceland. Most travelers just drive on through. Interestingly enough, eastern Iceland is one of the most diverse and beautiful areas on the island. To see for yourself, add Vestadlsvatn Trail to your list of things to do.
Starting immediately, you’ll experience incredible views of the Seydisfjordur. As you continue on with your hike, the sweeping valley, numerous waterfalls, and lake at the summit will take your breath away.. or maybe that’s just the elevation gain!
This is a trail where you can expect very few other hikers. Because of this, the trail isn’t as maintained as other trails on this list. Be sure to wear proper footwear because the path can be very muddy and rocky at times.
Day Hikes In Eastern Iceland Map
The two hikes that we completed in eastern Iceland were very close to a town called Seyðisfjörður. This is the perfect home base for exploring eastern Iceland.
Pro-tip: If you are in the Seyðisfjörður area, be sure to check out Askur Taproom. We really enjoyed this brewery.
Day Hikes In Northern Iceland
Northern Iceland is another area that is often overlooked by tourists. Find some of the most off the beaten path hikes in northern Iceland by following our guide below:
Distance: 3.4 miles
Elevation gain: 800 feet
Location: Kofi Trailhead
Hiking the Kofi Trail in Dalvik, Iceland was one of the best day hikes we did during our trip. When arriving in Dalvik, you’ll be instantly charmed by this sweet coastal town.
Use the coordinates above to locate the church in town. This is where you’ll park your vehicle and begin your trek. You’ll notice that other hikers might share the trail with you, but the majority of them are just friendly locals.
There are many trails that begin at this same trailhead. I suggest taking the shorter route. The longer route stretches for approximately 10 kilometers but there are many technical river crossings. The shorter hike should suffice; it was perfect for us.
Pro-tip: complete the Kofi Trail on your way to or from Olafsfjordur. Olafsfjordur was the coolest small town in northern Iceland and I recommend adding this to your Iceland itinerary.
Distance: 13.5 miles
Elevation gain: 2000 feet
Location: Lambi Trailhead
If you plan to explore northern Iceland, I can guarantee that the small city of Akureyri will be on your itinerary. Akureyri is full of hot springs, geothermal spas, and breweries. You’ll also find some incredible hikes in this area.
I recommend checking out Lambi Trail when visiting Akureyri. Although a bit longer than other hikes on this list, Lambi Trail will give you some of the best views of the northern Icelandic mountains. The trail is relatively easy to follow and it’s a great way to get away from the crowds.
Distance: 0.5 miles
Elevation gain: very little elevation gain
Location: Kolugljufur Canyon Trailhead
Bear with me on this one; I’m sure you’re confused why I included a trail that’s only a half of a mile in length. This trail isn’t necessarily a “day hike” and I know it. Regardless, Kolugljufur Canyon should absolutely be on your Iceland itinerary.
A perfect stop along Ring Road, the trail in Kolugljufur Canyon features a powerful waterfall and an even more incredible gorge. When you reach the canyon, drive across the bridge to the other side. This is where you’ll want to park.
From the carpark, look for the fence; it should be just to the left of the canyon. Enter through the gates and follow the trail. Using this path, you’ll be able to explore the canyon far and wide. You can even hike down to the base of the canyon, but be sure to wear proper footwear; it can be very slippery.
Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation gain: 400 feet
Location: Raudholar Circle Trailhead
The last trail on our northern Iceland day hikes list is Rauðhólar Circle. Located approximately 2 hours from Akureyri, Rauðhólar Circle offers some of the best views of the canyon and basalt formations in the area. These are the most impressive basalt formations on the island.
Due to erosion, there have been signs posted prohibiting hikers from reaching the top of the tallest hill. Please respect nature and these suggestions. Although you won’t be able to reach the very top, you’ll still get fantastic views of the scenery from the trail.
Pro-tip: slapping bugs away every three seconds isn’t exactly fun. Bring some insect repellant with you on this hike.
Day Hikes In Northern Iceland Map
There are endless day hikes in northern Iceland. The map below shows you exactly where each hike is located. Use this to plan your itinerary.
There are a few hikes that are directly next to the route for Ring Road. Other hikes require a bit of a detour.
Best Time To Hike In Iceland
Iceland is truly the land of fire and ice. You’re sure to experience extreme weather conditions whether you visit the island in summer or in winter.
The best time to hike in Iceland is during the summer months. Not only will you have more daylight hours, but the weather should be much warmer than any other season.
Hiking Gear For Iceland
Hiking in Iceland is unlike hiking in any other country. You’ll be completely exposed to a variety of elements including wind, rain, snow, sleet, and everything in between.
In order to be prepared for hiking in Iceland, I highly recommend packing the following items:
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The Best Hiking Shoes Iceland
The best hiking shoes for Iceland are Merrell Women’s Yokota 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots. These boots kept my feet completely dry and warm even in freezing weather. The grip of these hiking shoes helped me conquer each of these amazing hikes.
The Best Hiking Pants For Iceland
The biggest mistake I made while packing for Iceland was forgetting to pack hiking pants. Typically I just hike in any of my comfortable running clothes; this has worked perfectly for me in the past.
Unfortunately, hiking in Iceland is a bit different and requires the best waterproof pants. Mike packed his Columbia Men’s Rebel Roamer Rain Pants, which were a lifesaver.
I recommend packing your waterproof hiking pants for your journey, too. Ladies, if you’re looking for a quality pair of waterproof hiking pants, check out the Columbia Women’s Storm Surge Waterproof Hiking Pants.
The Best Raincoat For Hiking In Iceland
During one of our trips to Iceland, we brought two friends along with us. Our friends brought Frogg Toggs raincoats and we brought our North Face Rain Jackets.
I’ve always had great things to say about Frogg Toggs, especially based on their price. However, during our most recent trip to Iceland, we found out why North Face Rain Jackets are worth the extra money.
If you want to stay dry while hiking in Iceland, I highly recommend investing in the North Face Rain Jackets. They also double as a windbreaker.
The Best Backpack For Hiking In Iceland
Hiking in Iceland will require layers, layers, and more layers. Since the weather is so unpredictable, you’ll want to be fully prepared for every kind of weather.
One of the most important things to pack for your Iceland trip is a good hiking backpack. The best hiking backing for Iceland is The North Face Borealis 28L. We were able to fit our water bladders, snacks, and layers of clothes in this durable backpack.
The Wrap-Up: Day Hikes In Iceland
Discover the solitude that Iceland has to offer with these incredible day hikes. These hikes will give you the best experiences and show you the diversity of each region of Iceland. Whether you’re hiking on a glacier or to the most powerful waterfalls, you won’t be disappointed with these day hikes in Iceland.
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